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footprints in the sand

You can Change! Focusing on Free Will

This week’s introduction and Lesson 13

Welcome to Week 3 of the Elul Program 5777. The theme for this week is You can Change! Focusing on Free Will

Please click the image below to access a short video by Alan Morinis that will introduce this week’s theme.

Alan Morinis video still

Lesson 13: September 10 / Elul 19

Rambam, Laws of Teshuvah, ch. 5:
Free will is granted to all people. If one desires to turn to the path of good and be righteous, one has that choice. Should one desire to turn to the path of evil and be wicked, one has that choice too.
There is no one who can prevent you from doing good or bad… Every person has the potential to be righteous like Moses, our teacher, or wicked, like [King] Jeroboam. [Similarly,] one may be wise or foolish, merciful or cruel, miserly or generous, or [acquire] any other character traits. There is no one who compels a person, sentences them, or leads them towards either of these two paths. Rather, each individual, on his/her own initiative and decision, tends to the path they choose.
Therefore, it is proper for a person to cry and mourn for their sins and for what they have done to their soul, and the evil consequences brought upon it. Since free choice is in our hands and our own decision [is what prompts us to] commit all these wrongs, it is proper for us to repent and abandon our wickedness, for this choice is presently in our hand. This is implied by the following verse [Eichah 3:40]: "Let us search and examine our ways and return [to God]."

Can we really be as righteous as Moses? The Torah testifies that “there was never and will never be a prophet as great as Moses” How are we to understand this?

Each of us has natural tendencies that push us toward one of the extremes on the "middah" spectrum. If so, how can Rambam assert “There is no one who compels a person, sentences them, or leads them towards either of these two paths”?

Your practice for this week is to form and articulate kavvanot for yourself, and to direct your words and deeds in line with those conscious intentions. Form and articulate an intention for the week to exercise your free will in a situation that challenges you.

See the details of your weekly practice by clicking HERE.

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If you would like to sponsor a day or week in Elul in memory or honor of somebody, please contact Steven Kraus steven@mussarinstitute.org

Today’s learning is sponsored by Steven and Bonni Kraus and Family, in loving memory of Phyllis Kraus—mother, mother-in-law and grandmother. Grandma definitely demonstrated shtika on many occasions when others might have been inclined to speak up. We never heard her raise her voice. She practiced savlanut, and her slow, calm demeanor had that effect on all those around her, as well. No matter what her internal dialogue sounded like, her outside expression was one of menuchat hanefesh, and she exuded warmth and kindness. She had a lev tov – a good heart. Her family was her life and every single one of us felt her intense, devoted and unconditional love. Her memory will forever remain an inspiration and an exemplar for us all.

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